Can I Keep Coquina Clams As Pets?

If you’ve ever wandered along the beach and come across a large group of vibrant, colorful wedge-shaped rocks, you’ve likely found coquina clams. Before you take them home to your aquarium, though, you might wonder, “Can I keep coquina clams as pets?”

The short answer is no, they need to be in the wild. However, if you want a longer explanation like what and how they eat, the water they live in, or any dangers they might pose to other inhabitants of your fish tank, keep reading!

What Do They Eat?

Coquina clams are filter feeders, which means they use the movement of the water to eat. Once the water washes over them, the tiny hairs on their exterior rake in algae and phytoplankton for them to munch on.

While this doesn’t make them a bad addition to your aquarium, they wouldn’t survive in an enclosed space.

What Kind of Water Climate Do They Need?

This type of clam can survive in freshwater or saltwater environments, but they like to burrow into the sand and let the water wash over. One of the main reasons they wouldn’t be suited for the climate of your aquarium is that they like colder water.

Most aquariums are set to a more temperate environment, since most fish that are kept in a tank like mild temperatures.

Why Wouldn’t They Be Good in Your Aquarium?

In case you’re still thinking about keeping a coquina clam in your aquarium, here are the biggest reasons not to. Keep in mind that they wouldn’t necessarily endanger your other fish or kill your coral, but it’s for their own survival that you leave them on the beach.

Water Movement

As mentioned earlier, their method of feeding is through the movement of water. Coquina clams let themselves be washed up on the beach where they dig into the sand and wait for the tide. Once the water passes, they eat whatever they’ve managed to sift out.

Obviously, if they’re at the bottom of a stagnant fish tank there isn’t any water movement similar to that of a tide. This is especially true, considering the fact that coquina clams rely on the water to move around.

Once they’ve eaten or used a spot long enough, they basically unhook from their spot in the sand and let the next wave take them further down the beach. Not only is this required to feed, but it’s a survival mechanism.

Coquina clams are prey to seagulls and other birds. While none of these would be in the fish tank with them, the instinct to move would stress your coquina clam out and likely kill it.

Filter Feeders

It can’t be emphasized enough that the way they eat is through filtering out food from the water. Even if they’re immersed in the water of an aquarium, which may or may not kill them to begin with, most fish tanks filter the water already.

This would leave the coquina clam nothing to sift out and they’d die from starvation. As colorful as an aesthetic that they would bring to your fish tank, there’s little to no algae or phytoplankton in the average water of an at-home aquarium.

Possible Diseases

The last main reason not to keep coquina clams as pets is to protect the other inhabitants of your aquarium. In a way, this contradicts the earlier statement that they pose no threat to your fish tank but the clams aren’t what you need to worry about.

While coquina clams themselves aren’t predatory in any way and would be incapable of threatening your other aquatic life, they live in the wild of the ocean and on beaches where numerous bacteria and diseases could be picked up.

Once introduced into your aquarium, these pathogens could make their way into killing coral or infecting the rest of the fish in your tank with a serious virus. Shellfish have been known to carry Hepatitis A, for example, and that could kill your entire population.

Suggestions for Clams in Your Aquarium

While there are many reasons that the coquina clam should be left alone on the beach, there’s nothing wrong with adding a clam to your aquarium. In fact, they can bring colors and added benefits to your fish tank that you may not get from fish alone.

Two of the best saltwater clams that you might consider introducing to your aquarium are the tridacna crocea and the tridacna squamosa. Obviously, research how well they’ll fit with the pH and water of your other fish, but here are some reasons to go with them if they fit.

Tridacna Crocea 

These little guys, also known as “boring clams,” are a good replacement for your coquina clam dreams because they come in a variety of colors similar to the coquina. They’re also very easy to take care of, as they require little work on your part.

Boring clams eat using a type of photosynthesis with algae, so just make sure you do your research and provide plant life in your aquarium if it’s not already present. They also like to attach to rock surfaces.

One of the best features about the Crocea is that they only grow to a maximum of just under 20 cm, so they’ll fit in almost any aquarium. Of course, most fish like to take a bite off of the mantle of this clam.

Your best bet is to have an aquarium with fish that eat plankton or algae, because a lot of other aquatic life will devour the crocea clam. When it comes to the water, just watch the calcium levels to ensure its survival.

Tridacna Squamosa

The squamosa species of clam is similar to the crocea in that it also uses photosynthesis to feed on algae and it needs calcium in the water to survive. However, these clams prefer sand to rocks so make sure the bottom is lined properly.

One big difference is that the tridacna squamosa can grow to be a foot long, which is still in the realm of many aquariums. In the wild they grow larger, but the confined space of the aquarium alters their growth. 

The only other difference is that they need nitrogen to live, so that’s another level to watch for when testing the water.


The final verdict is that coquina clams would make terrible pets and you should never put them in an aquarium with your other fish. From how they feed and survive to what they might introduce to the water, coquina clams are not meant to be anywhere but on the beach.

Hopefully the recommendations of saltwater clams will help liven up your aquarium with color and clams, though!


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